India has ruled out death penalty for marines: Italy

India has ruled out the death penalty for two Italian marines facing trial for murdering two Indian fishermen, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino has said amid reports that the Indian investigators have sought capital punishment for the duo.

Citing a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Bonino said the Indian government has made it clear that Italian marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — will not face the death penalty over the killings.

“There was a formal statement (Thursday) by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Syed Akbaruddin who answered an ANSA question and recalled that Foreign Minister Salman Kurshid ruled out the death penalty,” Bonino was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

During the briefing in New Delhi, Akbaruddin had said, “…If you would like to know the Government of India’s position on this, I think you should refer to the statement made on the floor of Parliament on 22nd March, 2013 by the External Affairs Minister.

“It explains clearly what is the Government of India’s position. If your argument is that there may be some developments where x, y, z may have felt something at this stage, I can assure you the Government of India intends to abide by those statements that were made on the floor of the House in Parliament, and any decision that we take will be a considered one taking into account the policy framework that has been articulated in that statement to Parliament,” the MEA Spokesperson had added.

In the statement made in Parliament on March 22, the minister had said that “…According to well settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard.”

The remarks by the Italian Minister came in the backdrop of media reports in India which said investigators from National Investigation Agency (NIA) had asked the judge to punish the Marines on the basis of the ‘Sua Act’ which entails death penalty.

“The death penalty is not even conceivable as a risk,” Italy’s special envoy on the case, Staffan de Mistura, said.

“The Indian government itself has pledged that that will not happen.

“But above all, this case does not fall among those very rare ones in which the death penalty is a statutory punishment,” said de Mistura, a long-serving top diplomat who has been shuttling between Italy and India to try to resolve the 21-month-long case.

“This is just media speculation,” de Mistura added. “Such speculations in the past have been refuted by the facts”. Mistura told ANSA.

Italy is ready “for any eventuality, with actions and counteractions”.

Bonino said the two would most likely return home by Christmas, but Defence Minister Mario Mauro said that forecast might be optimistic.